A Sideways Look at Site Assessments
After 29 years as gamekeeper and latterly 17 years as poacher I have witnessed many MOT changes to MOT Testing which have varied from a Greek Tragedy to a Brian Rix Farce; for those of a tender age who don’t recognise Brian Rix – ask your Dad! As far as I am concerned the jury is still out on Risk Assessments.
By MOT Consultant John Gillson (Ex VI).
The Site Assessment Report – Risk Scoring (Reference Guide) can be plucked from cyber space. However, at some twenty-two pages in length make sure you have plenty of paper in the printer.
If like me you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, (actually several thousand) the guide to ‘VTS Best Practice’ is also available for those who filed their original copy in WPB.
I hear you ask what is WPB? Well, this is Civil Service jargon at its best. It is usually a round object which sits close to or under the desk. It is the last resting place for all those important documents and papers before they are transferred to the shredder.
Also available to print on the VOSA/Business Link site is a virgin Site Assessment Report. However, for those Authorised Examiners of nervous disposition I would not recommend any of the above-mentioned documents for bed-time reading.
It’s all in the presentation
In common with most small businesses the ‘Garage’ is a family affair and it is the family who suffer most when MOT Testing ‘goes away’. Fortunately, most MOT shortcomings are preventable with a little forethought and care. The easiest aspect to deal with, in this age of site assessments, is presentation.
I am still amazed by the number of garages where the toilets make the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ look like a bright and airy place. As my Grandmother used to say, “a little soap and water costs nowt”.
A point of view
You will be judged by appearances; make sure your MOT bay contains only what is needed for the MOT (and MOT repairs)
Reception and Viewing Areas are the first impression features of an MOT Testing Station. I have seen all standards of Viewing Area from the retro opulence of a raised dais surmounted with a Morris Minor rear seat, to a couple of crates and a dustbin.
I have also seen a wide variation in MOT bays from the pristine ATL to those with a fifty year old, twenty foot mound of used car parts in one corner, “just in case they might be useful at some time in the future”.
The ‘Triffid’ type ivy and other vegetation penetrating through the walls and under the roof might impress Alan Titchmarsh, but they do not generate an impression of twenty first century MOT Testing.
Surplus to requirements
In some forty-six years of visiting MOT Testing stations I have seen enough obsolete Test equipment, part worn tyres, oil drums and the odd 105E Anglia (or similar) restoration project, parked in or around MOT bays, to create a tidal barrier in the Bristol Channel.
I have also seen the occasional truck with more wheels in the MOT bay than it has had on the motorway in the last twelve months.
Similarly I know the restoration project was the first car you ever owned and that it will be fully restored by 2025, if you still have an MOT Bay!
I know it was the ‘best gas analyser that we ever had’, however, it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be an ‘annual upgrade’ for equipment that was around when Boudica was in her chariot.
If it is not needed for MOT Testing it should not be in the MOT bay!
In regard to equipment maintenance I know the bare patches on the brake tester rollers provide a strobe effect when the sun is shining, but forty points is a high price to pay for the odd flash of reflected sunlight.
The Lucas Beamtester Mk III was the ‘state of the art’ headlamp Testing equipment in the last century and its durability is a testament to its originally quality. However, the fact that several apprentices have crushed it into submission by lowering vehicles which overhang the front of the hoist platforms onto it, only for it to be ingeniously ‘repaired’, before the Boss notices. The resulting ‘scars’ provide a clear indication that it is long past its calibrated and operational life.
Mechanical trip hazard
ATL equipment also has its dark corners, not so large, but equally devastating when observed by your ‘friendly’ local Vehicle Examiner.
The mechanical foot (Foot Brake Applicator) is not a device which was introduced to torment Nominated Testers. It is an important tool and its use is not optional, irrespective of how many Tests have to be completed before tea break.
The interview questions and responses made during a Site Assessment require more than a little caution. The individual questions may have innocuous appearance. However, interview techniques have improved since the Spanish Inquisition. There is not so much audible screaming, but the verbal confessions can still be equally devastating.
The Vehicle Examiner will ask the same or similar questions of the Authorised Examiner, the AEDM, the MOT quality controller and Nominated Testers. When these are later compared the differing responses from each level of staffing can be quite revealing and incriminating.
The only way to avoid this potential minefield is to read and discuss the site assessment and operational requirements with all staff, on a regular basis. The section headings set out in the ‘Risk Scoring Assessment’ provide a clear insight into the interrogation technique being used and the proverbial pot holes you may fall into.
The wrong ‘right’ answer
These sections include: Responsible Person Management of Nominated Tester Performance, Incentives, Staff Retention, Pricing Structure, Business Relationships, Customers, Combined Sales and Testing, MOTs from Outside the Catchment Area, and Responsible Person Questions, together with other documentation and operational questions.
It is a bit like a pub quiz night sooner or later someone will shout out the ‘right’ answer before he or she has really thought about the question. Unfortunately, once out of the bag it is very difficult to get the cat back in, without getting more than just a few scratches.
Fortunately, unlike in the early 1940s, ‘Careless talk does not cost lives’. It will, however, book your next mystery shopper visit, which may ultimately cost jobs!
QCs shouldn’t be on the ‘QT’!
One area of procedure frequently overlooked or relegated to the inconvenience category is MOT Quality Control. In forty-six years of vehicle inspection I have encountered a significant number of individuals, ‘on both sides of the fence’ who believe that MOT quality control checks can be conducted from the warmth of the MOT office on a ‘lucky dip’ principle (ie a three year old vehicle is unlikely to have any serious shortcomings and therefore makes a good choice for a ‘notional’ MOT quality control check.
Please don’t make this mistake, correctly and effectively completed MOT quality control checks, together with regular monthly assessments of the ‘Performance Report’ and the random comparison of the ‘Daily Test Log’ with your own booking and accounts computer system, will go a long way to avoiding a disciplinary encounter with the VOSA.
MOT quality control checks should be completed, without prior notice and should be carried out by either procedural observation or re-inspection. I would recommend one by each method, per tester, per month. Don’t forget that the Nominated Tester must acknowledge the check in order for it to be correctly recorded.
Three stars on a single Performance Report should not be interpreted as a major shortcoming. However, further abnormal reports, revealed by regular monthly monitoring, require a proactive approach with an in-depth investigation of the standards being applied.
Do the MOTs ‘add up’?
Keep an eye on the numbers – if the Daily Test Log doesn’t match the number of certificates issued, something is wrong!
Frequent and regular checks of the Daily Test Log will ensure that covert friends and family, or similar ‘shirt cuff’ presentations, are not completed whilst you are at lunch, on the golf course on a Saturday morning, in Tenerife or some other more exotic location. It is ‘preferable’ (more precisely, vital) that the Company’s computer booking/accounts system matches exactly the number of Test certificate issues recorded on the VTS Device.
Any discrepancies between the two records may indicate that you are ‘losing’ Test fees and more importantly that you are in danger of losing your Approval to carry out MOT Testing.
Beware of Testing done ‘in the dark’
Nominated Tester charisma is not usually the reason for a sudden increase in MOT Test presentations. The sudden increase is usually due to some other factor for example a nine per cent initial failure rate or covert ‘buy one get one free’ freelance offer/initiative by an enterprising, but dishonest Nominated Tester.
Although ‘eyes in the back of the head’ are not set out as a requirement in the ‘Conditions of Approval’ for Authorised Examiners, the value of such a genetic variation should never be under estimated. Just when I think I have seen all possible scams perpetrated by Nominated Testers, up pops another one.
The message hidden in this little story is that it is time to take a step back and look at your MOT bay and operation, that way you may avoid one of VOSA’s ‘nasty letters’ and/or redundancy.
The final test
Finally, I am sure that all Authorised Examiners are aware that the ‘Motor Trade’ is currently fighting, on their behalf ‘The return of the Jedi’ in the form of the 4.2.2 saga.
Therefore, it is important that we demonstrate a clean, efficient and effective approach to the MOT Testing Scheme, which is not undermined by a ‘Fred in the shed’ methodology.
Don’t cut administrative corners; the case against 4.2.2 will also be enhanced if VT30s and Advisory Notices are issued whenever they are justified. A true picture of the ‘as presented’ vehicle condition will, without doubt, reveal the actual value of 3.1.1 MOT Testing and help prevent the potential longer term demise of some nine thousand MOT stations.
MOT Workshop Magazine